I only ask for information.
(Charles Dickens, David Copperfield)
Welcome to Lapine! I'm Loganberry (but let's face it, you knew that), and I'll be helping you to obtain a reasonable working knowledge in everyday conversational Lapine. It's a pretty straightforward language to learn, so long as you remember the basics. Mind you, I've grown up with it, as you might say! This "preview Unit" provides a little background about some general rules (well, guidelines) that the language follows.
You should be reasonably familiar with the small amount (20 words or so) of Lapine vocabulary given in Watership Down itself, as I sometimes assume knowledge of such words, especially those such as tharn or elil which have no simple English translation. Incidentally, I do not assume knowledge of the few extra Lapine words introduced in Tales from Watership Down - these will be explained as and when we meet them.
Finally, a quick word about typefaces. My general rule will be that Lapine is written in bold italic, English in "plain text" and other languages in simple italic. As Lapine is not a written language (until now!), capitalisation is pretty much optional, so I have used it only where it serves some purpose (eg in distinguishing between hrair and U Hrair).
There are 24 letters in the lapine alphabet:
There is no J, Q or X. Note that É (E-acute) is a separate letter, coming immediately after E. The letter C is only found in a very few words, such as hawock, "pheasant", borrowed from other languages, and even then only immediately before K. Equally, with a very few exceptions (such as glanbrin, a mythical creature, the letter G is only found in the combination NG; while W occurs only in the combinations AW and OW.
Pronunciation of Lapine is fairly straightforward, with in many cases only one sound for each letter, and no "silent" letters, and though there is considerable variation in accent over distances of only a few miles (which means that you don't have to be too slavish in following these guidelines!), things should not get to the stage of mutual incomprehensibility. I have followed the work of Zoe Kealtan for the most part in the following guide. By "English", I mean British English ('cause that's what I speak!).
B as in English "Book"
D as in English "Din"
F as in English "Food"
H as in English "Hand". Often pronounced even at the end of words
K as in English "Key"
L as in English "Lie"
M as in English "Mint"
N as in English "Now"
P as in English "Pie"
R as in English "Round". Usually trilled (except by me!), and fully pronounced even at the end of words
S as in English "Sick"
T as in English "Tie"
V as in English "Vim"
Y as in English "Young"
HL as in Welsh "LLan" - saying "hl"
will do if you can't manage the proper version. Again, fully pronounced
even at the end of words
HR as in Welsh "RHaid" - a sort of highly aspirated voiceless trilled R (yes, really!) - just say "hr" if necessary
NG as in English "siNG"
TH as in English "THink"
A as in English "fAt"
E as in English "hElp"
É as E, but rather longer
I usually as in English "bIt"; sometimes as in English "machIne"
O as in Welsh "O" - like the sound in English "Oh", but purer, without the closing "W" sound
U as in English "rUde"
Y as in English "trYst", but slightly longer
AE as in English "sIgn" (rare; usually AY
AI as in English "fAIr"
AO as in English "hOW"
AY as in English "sIgn"
EE as in English "sAY"
OI as in English "tOY"
OO as in English "slOW"
OW similar to AO, but with a more noticeable "W" sound at the end
The vast majority of Lapine nouns form their plurals in a regular way: terminating single vowels a, e, i, o and u - but not é, y or double vowels - are removed, and -il is added (or just -l if the word already ends in i). So the plural of homba ("fox") is hombil, and that of hrududu ("motor vehicle") is hrududil, but the plural of Inlé ("the Moon") would be Inléil, and that of hlao (a small depression where moisture may collect) would be hlaoil.
Stress in Lapine does not follow hard and fast rules, but in general the penultimate syllable is stressed. There are many exceptions however, particularly in compound words (silflay is stressed by some rabbits on the first and by some on the second syllable), and this is especially true of proper names - think of Thethuthinnang, whose name follows the stresses of the English phrase "once in a way". You'll just have to learn these as you go along, I'm afraid....
Copyright © David "Loganberry" Buttery 2002-4. Updated 24/03/04.